Clemson’s eight game win streak is now over but all is not lost. As disappointed as I am with yesterday’s performance and outcome, this team is 8-1 and is one win against Wake Forest from securing a trip to Charlotte. I did not see any of the game until the game was well in hand for the Yellow Jackets due to a family wedding in Delaware. I could have it worse, my in-laws got ten inches of snow and were looking at the real possibility of going back to a house with no power this morning so maybe losing a football game is not so bad.
Bump that, I would rather be in the dark unable to type this than have lost to Georgia Tech but you have to give the Jackets a tip of the cap. They weathered the early onslaught, made adjustments, got momentum and never looked back. The Clemson defense forced two consecutive three and outs to start the game. The offense came out and could only muster a field goal in the first half. Georgia Tech did not take long to make the adjustment up front they needed to make and never looked back.
Georgia Tech took advantage of Clemson’s glaring deficiencies at linebacker. You remember what I said about Tech making defenses, read, get off blocks and tackle? Well Clemson showed that it was not up to the task of playing fundamental defense and got lit up. I also said it would not take much for the once struggling Georgia Tech offense to find some confidence to get on a roll. Simply put, Georgia Tech took it to Clemson and Clemson failed to respond.
From an offensive perspective, Clemson missed Andre Ellington. I was excited to see what DJ Howard could do when it was announced he would start last Thursday. Not to say Howard cannot and will not be a productive back for the Tigers, he just does not have the intangibles and ball security of Andre Ellington. As talented as Mike Bellamy is, the youngster does not have the trust of the coaching staff to be left out there in key moments.
The Georgia Tech defense known for being vanilla as a wafer came to life last night. Yellow Jacket defensive coordinator Al Groh dialed a blitz package that would have made Nick Saban smile last night. Once again, Clemson did not have an answer from an execution stand point. Once you are down 24-3, any defensive coordinator can cut it loose from a play calling perspective when they know you have to throw the ball and that is what Georgia Tech did.
You can lose the turnover battle against a team like Maryland and still have a chance. You simply cannot turn the ball over four times, once in the red zone and expect to win against a team of Georgia Tech’s caliber. Running backs cannot fumble and sadly you throw enough passes when the defense knows you have to throw and you are likely to get one or two picked off, it is not a recipe for success.
All was not lost last night. Sammy Watkins had another big night. The true freshman continues to shine. The young man from Naples, FL had ten catches for 159 yards and a touchdown catch. He was the lone bright spot on a night that Clemson would suffer its first loss of the year.
Do not let the national pundits tell you anything about Clemson pulling a Clemson. It just was not the case, Georgia Tech dictated tempo and won the battle along the line of scrimmage throughout the ball game and that was the difference. As much as the idea of going undefeated was dancing in my head, I think you have to appreciate just how difficult it is to do.
The season is not over for the 2011 Clemson Football team, with Wake Forest’s lost to North Carolina on Saturday, the matchup on November 12 will be for the Atlantic Division Championship. Simply, Clemson defeats Wake Forest and you can book your hotel rooms for Charlotte. The key thing to remember is that all of this team’s goals are still in front of it. Win the Division, Win the State Championship and Win the Conference.
On a negative note, it was reported that the house where quarterback Tajh Boyd lives was egged last night following the game. It has been reported that his family has filed a complaint with the Clemson Police Department. Whoever was involved with this regardless of it were merely Halloween shenanigans or the incident was targeted as a response to the outcome of the game, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That type of behavior is juvenile and I dare say when the party or parties involved are caught they are likely going to wish they had not been involved with such a sophomoric act.
Clemson heads into the off week and it could not come at a better time. This team is physically and mentally worn out, I strongly believe that time away from the field and each other will do this team a lot of good. I would imagine the team will practice two to three times this week. They will be off for the weekend, which will allow most of them to go home and get away from Clemson. I know that was a hurt locker room last night but I strongly believe that you will see a healthier and rejuvenated team take the field on November 12 Senior Day and the final home game for the 2011 season.
Continue to keep your heads held high. Enjoy a weekend away from football. Though, I am excited to watch the LSU-Alabama game next Saturday night. The dream is still alive and we still have a lot to be excited about!!